Thanks to the announcement of the engagement of two foreign celebrities 2017 ended on a cheery note for many Australians. But while the Harry & Meghan announcement was certainly another speed bump for the ARM, it could easily have been a brick wall. After all, the Royal Ranga’s probably spent as much time down here as in the US, and if his eye had been caught by some elfin Aussie thesp (Rebel Wilson springs irresistibly to mind), my Speccie stablemate David Flint would now be popping the Angas Brut and Peter FitzSimons would be stamping on his bandanna.
Can we read anything into the regularity of these Buck House bulletins and the timing of this latest one in particular? 2011: the marriage of Will and Kate sends a tsunami of lurve round the planet and prompts Americans to ask themselves, not for the first time, if that Revolutionary War was really such a great idea. 2013: the birth of Prince George, to whom millions of Commonwealth citizens will one day tug the forelock, also causes a fair amount of bi-hemispherical jubilation. 2015: the birth of Princess Charlotte, who’ll need half of Kensington to disappear into a sinkhole for a shot at the top job, inspires significantly fewer column inches, and in the basements and backrooms of Canberra, Wellington and Ottawa the rough beasts of republicanism bestir themselves. 2017: the discovery of a new species of bat in Guatemala gets more international attention than the news that our now balding and – were it not for his telegenic spouse – rather dull next-but-one monarch is about to become a dad for the third time. It’s not hard to imagine patrician murmurs across the dining tables of St. James to the effect that getting the wild colonial genie back in its bottle this time might require something a bit more, well, populist. So was the spare-to-the-heir’s decision to give that BBC interview a week later entirely spontaneous, or was he, as his fiancée’s compatriots might put it, stepping up to the plate? At the risk of mixing my sporting metaphors, just as the substitution of a different scrum half for the final ten minutes of the match dashed all hopes of a Wallaby victory at Twickenham recently, could it be that Harry was told by Whitehall’s equivalent of Eddie Jones that it was time for him to come off the bench and play a blinder for Queen and Commonwealth?
The wedding itself will further undermine Australian republican aspirations, of course, not least because, assuming it observes protocols upheld by the last one, the guest list will include our prime minister. Cynics might say that we’ll probably have a new PM by May – or perhaps be in the process of recycling an old one. But even if, by some miracle, Mr Turnbull is still in the job there’s no reason to suppose he’ll be any less keen to occupy a pew than Julia Gillard was in 2011. And the fact that his first conspicuous foray into public life was as leader of the organisation whose raison d’etre is to distance us from precisely this kind of anachronistic, tax-payer-funded grovel-fest won’t stop him sleeping on the plane. Nothing characterised Britain’s greatest post-war Conservative’s approach to government more succinctly than her assertion that ‘the lady’s not for turning’. Mr Turnbull’s capacity for turning, as seen in his approach to matters like Newspolls and royal commissions, begs comparison with a rotisserie chicken.
Predictably, British pundits have talked a lot about the Markle match strengthening the so-called Special Relationship. But as a pom who’s lived in the US and was once married to a yank, I can confirm there is no such thing. Notting Hill is a movie, not a documentary, and the cultural divide between the UK and the US – for some time now more akin to the Pacific than the Atlantic – is cruelly exposed by matrimony. For me, the most ominous part of that BBC interview is the bit where mignon Meghan describes how her prince got down on one knee. He is evidently oblivious to the fact that these days, for many Americans, that’s a gesture of defiance and disrespect. I’ll give it 5 years.
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